Yvonne Gregory

Yvonne LeBone Belmont Gregory was born in Houston, TX on August 7, 1919.  Yvonne was always interested in the arts and began singing and dancing at a young age.  While in college at Oglethorpe University (studying nursing) in the late 1930’s in Atlanta she was the staff vocalist at WSB radio station and sang during the Big Band Era. She toured with the Jimmy and Tommy Dorsey bands and sang with the all-girl Phil Spitalney and his All Girl Orchestra.  In 1939 she won the Gateway To Hollywood competition in Atlanta.   She gave up the invitation to go to Hollywood and become an actress when she met Joseph E. Gregory from Pembroke, KY.  Joe was an engineering major at Georgia Tech and they married in May of 1939.  While Joe was overseas as an officer during WW II, Yvonne performed as a staff vocalist for radio station WSM in Nashville, Tennessee. She also recorded with Frances Craig’s orchestra and Beasley Smith at NBC.

A child Joseph E. Gregory, II was born during the war and a daughter arrived in late 1946.  In 1948 Yvonne and Joe and family moved from Grand Rapids, Michigan where Joe was working for General Motors to the family farm in Pembroke, KY.  Yvonne loved living in the country and fishing often in the Big West Fork of the Red River that bordered their farm.

She gained notoriety conducting choral groups in Hopkinsville and also as a folk singer, playing the dulcimer and autoharp.  Yvonne would visit rural homes and record their music that had been handed down from generation to generation.  She also visited folks in Appalachia and recorded them too. She performed with Jean Ritchie, Pete Seeger, Bob Dylan and numerous other singers at various musical events.  

In her 50s, when her husband died, she began her educational career again at Austin Peay University, majoring in art and graduating with a Bachelors, Masters and her Educational Doctorate.  She was good friends with an instructor there, Olen Bryant, a sculptor who has passed away. She taught at several schools in Hopkinsville and retired from teaching art at Koffman Junior High Scholl after teaching hundreds of students.  She was a past president of the Kentucky Retired Teachers Association, past president of the Hopkinsville Art Guild and was a member of the St. Elmo Homemakers Club and Saints Peter and Paul Catholic Church.

After she retired, the principal at Koffman allowed students to walk to her nearby home during breaks to visit with her since she loved visiting and counseling junior high students.  

She passed away in July of 2003.  She had instructed her daughter not to have any music during the funeral service since she was afraid the performers would be off key.  When the priest heard this and listened to a CD of her performances, he choose a folk song that was played during the ceremony at St. Peter & Paul.  Her grandsons that were pall bearers said she would have loved singing at her last event. 

Yvonne had one son that preceded her in death, leaving her daughter, Suzanne Gregory Keith, and son William Belmont Gregory in Springfield, TN with their families.  She had eight grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren when she passed away.